TrueHoop: Joe Alexander

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • Anthony Morrow set a new Summer League record with 47 points against the Hornets
  • Joe Alexander, as much as anyone on the Bucks' roster, will benefit from Brandon Jennings' fluency at running the break. Alexander can run the floor well for a combo forward, and knows how to fill the lane in transition. Thursday, he also harnessed his athleticism and got points driving to the hole with authority against some slower Toronto defenders. He also ran the pick-and-roll as the ball man effectively. All in all, another good outing for Alexander. 
  • DeMar DeRozan: moving well off the ball. In the second quarter against the Bucks, he made a beautiful back door cut to the hole from the weak side the instant he recognized that the defense was sloughing off him a bit. The result? A perfect lob pass from Quincy Douby, and a vicious slam by DeRozan. He was also undeterred by tight coverage from Jodie Meeks at about 15 feet off the left block. Even with Meeks on top of him, DeRozan managed to get remarkable separation and elevation on his jumper under pressure. Coming hard off screens, DeRozan easily got free from Jodie Meeks. More on DeRozan from Holly MacKenzie here
  • Chase Budinger Chase Budinger: Averaging 17.8 point per game on 68% shooting.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Speaking of Meeks, he's still primarily a spot-up threat, which limits his ability to get to the line (23 attempts from the floor, but only one from the line), so it was nice to see him take it to the hole on occasion ... and finish.
  • Meeks and Jennings had great chemistry on Thursday, especially in the third quarter. On a high pick-and-roll for Jennings, the rookie point guard beat the trap. When the help sloughed off Meeks, Jennings kicked a perfect pass to his shooter, and Meeks drained the shot. Meeks' next two buckets from Jennings came in transition. On both breaks, Jennings waited patiently for Meeks to spot up, then perfectly timed his pass to Meeks, hitting him in rhythm. Both shots fell. On a crucial possession in the game's final minute, Jennings found Meeks again on the drive-and-kick, for a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead a point. Meeks finished the game with 29 points, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. 
  • Brandon Jennings was really aggressive off screens when he split the trap and recognized that the back line rotation was slow. As a result, he forced fewer bad shots and had an easier time finishing at the cup.
  • Apart from Adam Morrison, the Lakers have few recognizable names on their Summer League roster. Morrison didn't play Thursday, which left some additional shots for David Monds. The journeyman forward took full advantage of the opportunities, nailing a slew of mid-range jumpers on his way to 14 points and 6 rebounds -- may not sound like a lot, but the Lakers' summer league team is a little impoverished. 
  • Chase Budinger put up the best line of the day outside of Anthony Morrow: 25 points on 13 possessions. The forward out of Arizona might have the sweetest stroke in town. The challenge for most pure shooters in the NBA, of course, is finding good looks. This week, Budinger hasn't had any trouble. "He has a knack for getting open," Rockets' assistant Eltson Turner said. "He moves well without the basketball, and you can't leave him. That fits our style."
  • On the day he signed a 4-year, $3.8 million contract, DeJuan Blair gave the Spurs a good look at their investment against the Thunder, scoring 20 points on 13 possessions. Blair battled underneath all afternoon, muscling up for putbacks. But there was more to Blair's repertoire, including some wily dribble moves from the top of the key. "They shouldn't have passed on me," Blair said of the Thunder. 
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti is collecting versatile pieces to round out an increasingly mature Oklahoma City roster. To that end, Kyle Weaver's game is hard not to like. He wasn't the Thunder's top scorer Thursday, but he gave his team a reliable handle, solid on-ball defense for most of the night on George Hill, and some timely shooting. The Thunder's backcourt is standing room only, but in Weaver, Scott Brooks has a guy who knows his way around the court. For more on Weaver, check out Darnell Mayberry's profile in the Oklahoman.
  • In the first half of the Clippers-Grizzlies game, Blake Griffin (No. 1 overall) goes for 12 points and 11 boards, while Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 overall) goes for 4 points (0 field goals) and 1 rebound. David Thorpe at halftime: "Griffin played as if he was an undrafted player from Bulgaria trying to impress everyone in the place, in search of a job next year. Thabeet jogged around, bumped a few people, and generally seemed uninterested. Passion is a talent."
  • Tarence Kinsey wins the Kevin Martin Award: 20 points on two field goals ... but 16-for-18 from the stripe.
  • The Warriors' rookies serenade Anthony Randolph on his 20th birthday

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • The Knicks' Toney Douglas continued to struggle shooting the ball, but he performed his primary function as floor general quite well. He gave the Knicks what they needed at the point -- game management, penetration and kicking, creating for others, and, most of all, solid on-ball defense at that position. Douglas now has 21 assists to only two turnovers in his two games. Not bad for a guy who started out as a combo guard. 
  • Austin Daye The Pistons' order of the Daye
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Jordan Hill is at his strongest when he's facing up to the basket, but too often he rushes himself when he has the ball in the post. Several times on Wednesday, he lost track of where he was on the block, then flung an off-balanced shot up from close range. Hill also seemed a little passive as a post defender, even against the likes of Trent Plaisted. Hill stayed in close proximity on defense to his assigned man, but rarely tried to knock his guy off his spot. In general, the closer Hill was to the basket, the less comfortable he was.
  • You have to love a player who's useful at any spot on the court. Austin Daye is that guy for Detroit. He's a new wave three -- able to work as the ballhandler on the pick-and-roll, drive to the cup from the perimeter, post up against most small forwards, use a screen the right way, and hit from long range. Against the Knicks on Wednesday, he finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. 
  • DaJuan Summers was the butter and egg man down low for the Pistons. I can't quite figure out whether to classify him as a small or power forward. IMG's Mike Moreau referred to him as a "Power 3." Whatever he is, Summers continued to leverage his ability to face up for opportunities to get inside. There's a lot of offensive weaponry there, and he can clean the glass, too. His scoring line: 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field, and 5-for-7 from the stripe. 
  • Joe Alexander did a much better job off-the-ball finding space on the floor where teammates could hit him for open looks -- not just on the perimeter, but in Scola-territory along the baseline at 15 feet. The Alexander-Taj Gibson matchup was an interesting one and it was anything but a pitching duel. Alexander finished 9-for-16 from the field, Gibson 6-for-9. Gibson was able to exploit his length against Alexander, while Alexander used his versatility and triple-threat skills to beat Gibson. Meanwhile, Gibson became the second player in Summer League to rack up 10 fouls. The Spurs' Ian Mahinmi was the first Tuesday against Denver. Gibson now has 19 fouls in two games. 
  • Summer League is the perfect setting for an athlete like Amir Johnson to show off his wares under the basket. Johnson was an efficiency machine inside for the Bucks: 17 points on 11 possessions, along with eight rebounds. He owned the paint, gobbling up offensive boards, going up strong with the putbacks, either converting or getting fouled (11 free throw attempts for the game). Defensively, he was smart and physical, blocking shots and igniting breaks with sharp, quick outlet passes to Brandon Jennings
  • After sitting out Phoenix's first Summer League game on Monday with back spasms, Earl Clark displayed his full range of skills in his inaugural effort on Wednesday. He initiates the bulk of his offense along the perimeter, but he can do so many things from there to disarm the defense: a pretty touch pass into the post off a dish from his point guard, a catch-and-shoot, a dribble drive and pass-off that results in a hockey assist. He also showed his defensive flexibility, bothering guards and bigs alike.  
  • DeMar DeRozan is far more polished than advertised. He uses his quickness to build his game. As Mike Moreau said in David Thorpe's twitter thread, "Demar DeRozan really comes off the curl with speed, balance and elevation-very controlled. Will come off a decade's worth of pindowns."  He also rarely takes a bad shot -- uncommon among rookies and in Summer League, and particularly uncommon among rookies in Summer League. 
  • Jason Thompson was an entirely different player Wednesday. He claimed his spot down on the block, called for the ball, forced the action off the dribble, made hard back cuts when he was fronted, backed his guy in with force when he wasn't, and worked his tuchus off on the offensive glass. His totals: 31 points and 10 rebounds. 
  • Tyreke Evans didn't start for the Kings against the D-League Select team, and was very deferential when he checked in at the start of the second quarter and throughout the second half. He went 1-for-5 from the field, 3-for-4 from the line, with three assists in 23 minutes. Despite the off night, the change of speed on his dribble-drives was still ungodly.
  • Chase Budinger has a beautiful stride into his catch-and-shoot motion -- we know that -- but Wednesday night he also showed the athleticism to put it on the deck, weave through traffic, and finish strongly. He moved well without the ball to get open looks, and even absorbed a few bumps on defense to stay in front of his man, something he'll have to do this fall to stay in the Rockets' rotation.
  • Andray Blatche continues to be  one of the most confounding talents in the league. He flashed moments of sheer dominance Wednesday night with swift, whirling post moves off good recognition that made his defenders look silly. At other times, he tried to improvise and failed spectacularly. Blatche could be a top-shelf talent, but his preference for raw instinct over tactical strategy on a given play renders him inconsistent. He needs a plan. Still, between the potent face-up game at the top of the key, and the fancy footwork and explosiveness down low, it's hard to take your eyes off him. Let's see how he fares this season against NBA talent.
  • Dante Cunningham: NBA body, NBA aggressiveness, NBA defense ... NBA player? He didn't put up the most efficient line of the night (22 points on 23 possessions), but his physicality made the Rockets' defense work. He often chose to back his defender in with a dribble or two, then launch a mid-range jumper with good elevation. When he recognized there was something better, he'd build a head of steam and get to the rim. More than anything, he was out there with a purpose, moving with the offense, mindful of where Jerryd Bayless was at all times. 

Regular TrueHoop readers are likely familiar with the writing of Todd Gallagher, the author of "Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan." (I excerpted a fair chunk of it here on the site.)

A few days ago, we got some draft insight from Jay Williams, who profiled Derrick Rose. Today, we continue that tradition with the words of Gallagher, formerly the youngest coach in USBL history, who writes about West Virginia's Joe Alexander:

A disclaimer: 10 years ago when I was working in the USBL I would have been able to tell you everything about every one of the players in this draft. At this point, my hardcore knowledge is limited to the Big East where my fantasy team and love for Pitt has it so I know more about Providence's 8th man than guys on the All-American team. So, while my knowledge of the Big East and its players is in the unhealthy category, my limited overall knowledge makes it hard to put a scouting reference into a larger context of where someone "should" be drafted.
With that said, there are a few players I have followed closely, and one of them is Joe Alexander.

Joe Alexander
Four years ago, my father decided, at the age of 53, to go to Medical School at West VirginiaJoe Alexander University.

During his time there Joe Alexander started playing for the school's basketball team.

There are very few people who have seen as much of Alexander as my dad has. And each step of the way, his assessment was dead on. Starting with the calls I would get saying that Alexander was a raw, unrefined, yet remarkable talent, to when he said in at the beginning of his junior year that he was really growing under Bob Huggins tutelage and was about to have a breakout season, he was always ahead of the curve.

The ultimate conclusion is the only place we split and ended in an ongoing argument that started at the Big East Tournament and has yet to be resolved. I'll give the old man the floor first.

He's a definite lottery pick. But, is that a good decision at this stage of his evolution? I think Alexander can become a 15 and 5 NBA player but he needs another year of maturity. Keep in mind that this is a guy who grew up playing in China and couldn't even get a D-II school to take him coming out of high school. Even in college, he only turned the corner in the second half of last year and before that he'd never even been a particularly good Big East player, let alone a "go to" star. Yeshe has all of the skills and perhaps more than most NBA players, but he needs a full season of high level competition that challenges him to perform consistently, not just 10 games at the end of the season. With the wrong NBA team, he could languish on the bench, erode his confidence and skills and, ultimately, end up using his considerable talent to interpret the food selections for his teammates at the local Cantonese restaurant.

Ok, dawg, thanks for your take.*

As most know by now, Alexander is a freak athletically but it's not the windmills and foul line dunks that interest me. We've seen any number of players from Melvin Leavett to James White to Harold Minor who can do these things. It's the way he's learned to harness that athleticism into a simple yet advanced series of moves that all are based on taking advantage of improved strength and amazing vertical.

Watch the highlights.

Because of Hasheem Thabeet and UConn's massive frontline, which congested the lane and led the NCAA in blocks once again, Alexander broke out a series of latter year MJ moves. Jab step, one dribble, jump shot. Post up, square up, elevate.

This is a very mature way of playing the game and there aren't many college players who have the physical ability and are refined enough to do it. It's certainly a departure from when Alexander was a stringbean newbie who had no concept of how he was being defended and wanted to beat everyone off of the dribble through a series of hideous And-1 moves.

And he's a killer. When he talked trash about Duke after beating them in the NCAA tournament, that was the Joe Alexander WVU fans saw the entire second half of last year. Maybe that's from Huggins, maybe that's inborn, but the guy is not going to be intimidated.

That's not to say he doesn't have his weaknesses. Like many players who elevate that high on their jump shots, Alexander's shot is flat and therefore he has trouble shooting from deep. He doesn't move beautifully without the ball. He's still a pretty shaky ball handler and can't pass.

But it's my belief that these things will come. No matter where he's drafted or by whom, if he doesn't get 15 and 5 (or close to it) right away and 20 and 8 at some point, I'd be shocked.

Of course, my dad just finished med school and in writing this I've made the spell-check on my computer explode, so ya never know ...

*A special thanks goes to Lang Whitaker and the good folks at SLAM magazine for contributing that line.

(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

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